MariaOrtega, 15, and her son, Miguel, decorate sugar cookies on Feb. 12 at a meetingfor teenage parents participating in the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers Program.In Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Christina Good Voice)
Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Schools offer new Head Start
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Public Schools are partnering to offer an Early Head Start class for children of teen parents attending Tahlequah High School. The class is set to begin this spring at THS.
The class will care for nearly 50 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 3 years. THS will provide the on-campus facility, while the tribe will provide staff and other necessities.
The facility will be located in the same building as the Tahlequah Central Academy, an alternative education program where many teen parents attend classes.
“Tahlequah Public Schools is excited to be partnering with the Cherokee Nation Head Start to expand their program to serve our students who are teen parents,” said TPS Assistant Superintendent Billie Jordan. “We have recognized the need for this program for years and have searched for ways to provide this service so that teen parents can attend school and at the same time learn hands-on parenting skills while their babies receive quality child care.”
Laura Baltazar, 19, said she’s excited the class is nearly open because it would give her peace of mind knowing her children, 3-year-old Elder and 7-month-old Eyzel, would be cared for.
“It’ll be easier because they’ll just be right there,” she said.
Bethany McDonald, who is with the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers at Central Academy, said the class would also allow parents to ease their minds about paying for daycare.
Baltazar said she pays $400 a month for daycare, but with the class she can start saving that money.
“This will help save a lot of money,” she said. “A lot of young moms, we want to come to school but we have our babies.”
McDonald, who works daily with the teen parents on parenting skills, said she sees the class as removing an obstacle to their learning.
“I see a great way for our (OPAT) program to partner with the Head Start,” she said. “I see it merging so well. We’re going to be able to have better access to our teen moms. They’re going to be right here.”
Some teen moms said the class would also help them be able to concentrate more on school if they know their babies are in good hands. Maria Ortega, 15, said she’ll be able to focus better once the Head Start opens because her 10-month-old son Miguel will down the hall.
“It’s going to be easier,” she said. “He’ll be closer to me.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN created the program to be a good partner in the community, to keep teenage parents in school to finish their educations and get the fathers of the children involved in the children’s lives.
“Through establishing this partnership with the school, we can help provide a way for the students to continue their education, which in turn will help the community,” he said.
Tribal and school officials agreed that students have a better chance of attending college or another form of post-secondary education upon graduation from high school.
Doing so will help the students better provide for their family later, Jordan said.
“There is so much research showing what an effective program it is anyway and how well those babies do in school,” she said. “If we want to talk about really overcoming poverty, Head Start is a great way.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Bretly Crawford, 18, who is a senior at Sequoyah High School, has had a goal of attending Oklahoma City University since seventh grade. After years of showcasing his skills through artistic outlets he hopes to attend OCU upon graduation.
“I’ve been researching many colleges, and in addition to the fact that it is close to home, it is within the top 10 in the best preforming arts schools in the nation,” he said. “I’ve worked up there for a few workshops. My first one was in junior high. I went for their summer music program and then I went to Broadway Bound-Dancer Workshop, which is a two-week program where you get to work with the dance coaches.”
Crawford said his most recent role was in October as Neleus in “Mary Poppins” at the Muskogee Little Theatre.
“I did not audition for it, however, apparently my reputation precedes me and they had heard of me through the grapevine somewhere and had given me a call while I was in “Gypsy” and had just auditioned for the Encore! Preforming Arts Society’s “(The) Nutcracker.” They said, ‘can you please be Neleus, the dancing statue in the number ‘Jolly Holiday?’’ And I said, ‘if I say yes you have to respect that I have three shows going on right now’ and they agreed to that,” he said.
Crawford said although he was preoccupied with other musicals and school, it was important for him to expand his “fan base” by taking on this musical.
“It’s a very stressful process to be in three shows along with your regular day to day activities, but I chose this so I could get more coverage because I know I have people who know me and like me around the Tahlequah area but I would like to expand my fan base further out,” he said.
Crawford said since junior high he has studied under fellow CN citizen Barbara McAlister, who is a mezzo soprano opera star who now teaches vocal classes.
“She’s traveled all over Europe and she’s worked on Broadway, so incredible credentials,” he said.
Crawford said when it comes to attending OCU, where McAlister earned a bachelor’s degree, he hopes to earn scholarships for not only his artistic abilities but for whatever may be available.
“I’ve been preparing and preparing and preparing because Oklahoma City (University) is a very expensive college,” he said.
<strong>A Student Spotlight features Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band or Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians students whether they are in grades kindergarten through 12 or higher education, excelling in school or doing something extraordinary. To recommend a student, email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.</strong>
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University, in conjunction with the Center for Tribal Studies, celebrated on Oct. 10 a proclamation that every second Monday in October will be known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“In 1851 when the seminaries opened it was said that the Cherokees had ignited the lamp of learning in the wilderness,” NSU President Steve Turner said. “The lamp burns brightly. Today with this proclamation it makes sure that from this day forward we continue to look at that lamp and make sure it continues to burn brightly.”
The proclamation, signed by Turner, replaces Columbus Day at the university and states “with some 34 percent of our student body self-identifying as American Indian, it is our intention for NSU to continue to serve as a forum to education others about the history and contributions Indigenous peoples have made to the success of our university, state and nation.”
The ceremony took place on the campus at 2nd Century Square with Turner, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and keynote speaker Casey Camp-Horinek each speaking about the day’s importance.
Baker said the roots of NSU and CN intertwine, as NSU started out as the Cherokee Female Seminary.
“Thank God we’re finally telling the truth about our Cherokee and Native American histories, and we’re telling the truth about Christopher Columbus,” Baker said. “So with that I just couldn’t be more proud of this university, their administration, the belief that having an Indigenous People Day, a Native American day is important.”
Camp-Horinek, a Ponca citizen and Native right activist, spoke on environmental issues such as fracking and the Dakota Access pipeline, as well as Native civil rights.
“Our people have made the right decisions over and over and over again, and coming to another point of decision here,” Camp-Horinek said. “We’re coming to a time in history where we have to make some decisions on behalf of our future generations, same as the generations who came before us.”
CN citizen Pam Kingfisher, program coordinator for Native Women’s Reproductive Justice, said the proclamation was a call to action for other colleges and institutions to make the same kind of changes that NSU is recognizing with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
“It’s really important that we have these institutions within our community that uphold Indigenous values,” Kingfisher said.
Sara Barnett, event coordinator and director of the NSU Center for Tribal Studies, noted that 27 cities, at least two states and five educational institutions, now including NSU, have formally adopted the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
STILWELL, Okla. – Stilwell Public Schools obtained a $540,000 Indian Demonstration Grant on Sept. 28 as part of the Obama administration’s Native Youth Community Projects initiative to help students become college and career ready.
Superintendent Geri Gilstrap said Stilwell was the only Oklahoma public school to receive the grant this year and that only a handful of the grants are given annually.
“We are just very blessed…to receive that grant. We are so excited. It’s just going to offer our students many, many things that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to provide for them,” Gilstrap said.
Gilstrap said after having to take “cut after cut” out of the school’s budget the grant would allow school officials to provide a steady curriculum. She said officials plan to use the money for many reasons, but the main focus would be college-readiness for high school students.
Debbie Knight, Stilwell’s college academic advisor, said she would be able to open a college center on campus with 25 Chrome books for students interested in learning about different colleges. Knight also said the grant would help with more “college trips” in which seniors are able to make on-campus visits.
“This grant is going to give us enough money to take eight college trips. This is big,” Knight said.
Before the grant, she said she was only able to take seniors on two college trips per school year.
Gilstrap said the school would also be able to purchase Blackboard, an online system used at Northeastern State University for students to access notes, assignments and discussion boards. NSU is also expected to train students about the system, ACT testing, applying for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, as well as offer Composition I and Composition II classes at Stilwell.
Aside from college-readiness, the school would also be able to afford several full-time teachers for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, math lab, Cherokee I and Cherokee II classes.
Cherokee Nation citizen Gena Kirk helps teach the two Cherokee classes for grades ninth through 12th. She recently received news that because of the grant, she would able to become a full-time teacher Nov. 1.
“It was exciting to know the good news we received. We get to do workshops for our students now and get to do a lot more things with them, and I get to be full-time,” Kirk said. “That was exciting because I like being here for the kids and helping them every way I can.”
Kirk also said she would teach Cherokee heritage through stickball, basket making and getting demonstrators to visit and exhibit different facets of the culture.
“Obviously, we’re Cherokee…from the scoreboards in our gym to the sign on the side of our driver’s ed car,” Gilstrap said. “We’ve tried to immerse our kids as much as possible in the Cherokee language and their Cherokee heritage. And this grant is an awesome grant that’s just going to continue that work.”
The grant was not expected to become effective until around the beginning of November.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University officials on Oct. 5 announced that the school has received a $1.7 million Title III grant award during the next five years to fund its Native American Support Center.
Officials said developing the proposal was a group effort led by Sara Barnett, Center for Tribal Studies director; Dr. Tom Jackson, assistant vice president of Academic Affairs; and Mitzi Sicking, institutional grant writer.
NSU officials said the Native American Support Center seeks to increase the retention and graduation rates of Native American students through early alert and intervention strategies and provide additional academic advising, personal and academic coaching, tutoring and mentoring. They added that the program would provide a source of culture, connection, and care for Native American students on all three NSU campuses in Tahlequah, Muskogee and Broken Arrow.
“With nearly 3,000 students who self-identify as American Indian, the additional professional staff funded through this program will help ensure students receive culturally sensitive support to increase their academic success at Northeastern State University,” Barnett said.
The program will be housed in Academic Affairs under the Center for Tribal Studies. Funds for this program are awarded by the Department of Education, Title III Part F program, which is exclusively for institutions designated as a Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution.
Officials said NSU’s historic link to the Cherokee Nation and Indian Territory makes it the oldest institution of higher learning in Oklahoma, and its student body consistently has the largest number of American Indian students of any public university in the United States, representing approximately 30 different tribal nations.
For more information, call Barnett at 918-444-4350 or email at <a href="mailto: Barnet11@nsuok.edu">Barnet11@nsuok.edu</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Grand View School is teaching students about the Cherokee history, culture and language thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
The school is one out of 10 to receive the grant that supports Native American and Alaska Native children who are English-learning students, according to a DOE statement.
Margaret Carlile, Grand View federal programs director and Cherokee Nation citizen, said the school received the grant on Oct. 1 and that it would span across five years and total $1.5 million.
“We’re partnering with the Cherokee Nation to provide academic assistance to children who are from Native American families with their language skills. We’re trying to make sure that all students perform well academically. In addition to that a major component of our grant that I’m so excited about is that we will be teaching Cherokee here at the school again,” she said.
Carlile said the Grand View instructors who teach the Cherokee language are Darlene Littledeer, a certified English as a Second Language instructor, and Sara Downey, who works with students singing in Cherokee.
Carlile said she is also “excited” that the CN has received a grant to develop Cherokee language curriculum for language programs because the school has worked with people who have done these types of language programs in the past.
“And we’ve worked with other people in the area in the past who have taught language at the schools, and so we’re trying to borrow from some of the immersion procedures and some of where it’s a blended classroom because we know that our students need to succeed in English also,” she said. “We want our students to be good academically no matter what language they choose to speak.”
Carlile said the DOE grant focuses on students in pre-kindergarten to fourth grade and that although the grant is only for five years it should “make a difference.”
“Most research shows that it takes five years to make a significant change in education. So being able to do this and staying on track for five years gives us a great opportunity to make a difference here in the community,” she said.
Carlile added that she hopes to get students active in different Cherokee language activities.
“We’re so excited because we hope to have more than one team ready to go in the (Cherokee) Language Bowl. Kids are practicing, they’re working on their cultural information, their historical information, their pronunciations and we hope to be able to enter them into a number of events throughout the year,” she said. “(At) Grand View School more than half of our enrollment is of Indian heritage, primarily Cherokee, so we think that’s a significant thing that this school’s going to be active in all of those.”
Carlile said the CN has helped with the school’s willingness to educate students in the language.
“They’ve done some translations and already provided some materials in support, and we appreciate that they are reaching out to the schools,” she said. “We really need their help because without that there’s a lot of things the schools are cutting back on and doing away with, but thanks to the support of the Nation we’re able to continue some things for our students.”
Carlile said if anyone has information to help the school find resources to call 918-456-5131. “We’re kind of looking around for people that may know of resources that we can use here at the school. They might contact the school and let us know if they have some resources or some other skills that we might be able to use to ensure that our students get a lot of opportunities.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Registration is open for the Cherokee Nation Foundation’s fall ACT prep classes. The six-week course is offered to Cherokee Nation citizens in their junior or senior year of high school.
Class begins on Oct. 22 and concludes with students taking the National ACT exam on Dec. 10.
Classes in Fort Gibson will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Fort Gibson High School located at 500 S. Ross St. Classes in Sallisaw will be from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays at the Carl Albert State College-Sallisaw Campus at 1601 S. Opdyke St. No class will be held during Thanksgiving break.
Curriculum includes interactive instruction by a Princeton Review instructor and two practice tests. In previous years, students have increased their scores by an average of 3.5 points, and some individual scores have increased by as much as 10 points. Students interested in the course can pick up registration forms from their high school guidance counselors or call the CNF at 918-207-0950. Applications are also available at <a href="http://www.cherokeenationfoundation.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeenationfoundation.org</a>. The deadline to enroll is Oct. 19.